. Jayalalitha's interview on BBC World's HARDtalk India
The interview telecasted on BBC World on Friday 1st October at 2200 IST.Please give credit to HARDtalk India presented by Karan Thapar to betelecast on BBC World on Friday 1st October 2004 at 2200 IST should you beusing excerpts from the interview.
This Interview is really wonderful you can just read few conversations between them provided below
The outgoing Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha, is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians.
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A former actress, her career has been marked by a series of high and lows.
In most cases the lows have been followed by dramatic political comebacks in which she has been re-instated as Tamil Nadu chief minister.
She has also been feted over the last 10 years by various Indian prime ministers requiring her political support to remain in power.
Her admirers say she has played a key role in the development of the state of Tamil Nadu as one of India's most economically influential states.
But the 58-year-old has throughout her political career of nearly two decades been accused of "acquiring wealth beyond her known means of income" and has briefly spent time in prison prior to her conviction for corruption in October 2000.
The allegations made against her over the years have been extensive - from arranging for her opponents to be beaten up to spending large amounts of taxpayers' money for lavish wedding ceremonies.
Some of these allegations over the years have veered towards the outlandish: on one occasion she was accused of losing her temper with her auditor and assaulting him.
Jayalalitha first came to political prominence in the late 1980s, although she was well known as an actress before then, starring in over 100 films.
Naturally charismatic, she was brought into politics by a former Tamil movie star and state chief minister, MG Ramachandran, with whom she starred in many of her films.
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Three years after his death in 1988, she took over his All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Khazagham (AIADMK) party as well as the state, and proved equally adept at galvanising the support of the rural poor.
Ever since then, her detractors have accused her of creating a personality cult.
Stories about her extravagance are legendary, and many of her worshipping followers are known to profess their loyalty through bizarre acts such as walking on hot coals or drawing her portrait with their blood.
During the various times she has served as Tamil Nadu chief minister, huge cut-outs of her figure have dominated the Madras skyline.
Her ministers have on occasions been reported to prostrate themselves at her feet.
During one raid on her premises following a corruption allegation, police said that they found large quantities of diamond-studded gold jewellery, more than 10,000 saris and 750 shoes.
Jayalalitha's critics paint her as a deeply corrupt figure who has manipulated the system and sees herself as above the law.
In the 1990s, she attracted international attention for the lavish wedding she organised for her foster son, alleged to have cost many millions of dollars.
hroughout her political career, she has been in and out of court, either to defend herself against corruption allegations or to assert her right to exercise political power because of these allegations.
Her career has also been characterised by her long running political rivalry with 83-year old Karunanidhi, from the DMK party which won the lion's share of the seats in May's Tamil Nadu assembly elections.
The two have succeeded one another in an out of power for much of the last two decades, and commentators say that trend is more than likely to continue.
The results are not the first political setback experienced by Jayalalitha, and judging by her past performances, she will not take the latest defeat lying down.
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Transcript of J. Jayalalitha’s interview on BBC World’s HARDtalk India.
Saturday, October 16, 2004
KT: Hello and welcome to HARDtalk India. My guest today is the Chief
Minister of India's southern state of Tamil Nadu. Just over three years ago
her party won an astonishing 80% victory in the state elections, just over
three months ago her party failed to win a single seat in the National
elections. How does she explain this astonishing reversal of fortune? Is
the Chief Minister misunderstood or has the Chief Minister made mistakes.
That in a sense is the core question that I shall put today to the Chief
Minister of Tamil Nadu, J.Jayalalitha. Chief Minister, how do you explain
that humiliating outcome in May, not a single seat for your party?
JJ: I don't think it was a humiliating outcome at all. The results show
that we have retained our vote bank. We got more than a crore of votes on
our own which I think was a very good performance.
KT: But you got no seats.
JJ: Yes, but that is because we go by a simple majority system here.
KT: So the voting pattern of the country and the voting system went against
JJ: I would say that we retained our vote bank. There was no erosion in our
vote bank. We did very well but there was a formidable alliance ranged
KT: Let's talk a little about the image the press has built up about you
which many people believe has gone against you this time around.Over the
last three years the press has variously described you as undemocratic, as
irresponsible. They've even talked about you as irrational, vengeful and
maybe even irresponsible. Are you misunderstood or have you made mistakes
you can admit to?
JJ: I'm not irresponsible at all. That is totally removed from the truth.
Yes I am misunderstood. As for all these tags that is because the media
have been against me, not just for the past three years but ever since I
came to politics. Perhaps it is because the whole world is a stage and
everyone is acting all the time and I tend to be straight to the point.
Hypocrisy is not my forte at all. That way I must say I'm a bit
unconventional for a politician. The rule of the game seems to require
considerable play-acting. I have acted in films before the cameras but I'm
incapable of acting in real life.
KT: You mean your honesty and straight forwardness goes against you?
JJ: I'm honest. Let me be very honest with you. I prefer to play straight
and I prefer speaking the truth. If I appear to be blunt, so be it. Yes, I
am misunderstood and the media have a large part to play in this.
KT: Let's explore that a little. You said that you weren't irresponsible
yet within five days of your party failing to win a single seat at the May
general elections you reversed a whole series of decisions that you had
taken over the last three years.
JJ: Let me explain. The changes made in May 2004 were termed by the press
and the media as rollbacks and they made it appear that these were done in
the wake of the results of the parliamentary elections. But that is not
really so. What I was attempting was a major calibration of the process of
structural adjustment which had to be undertaken after I assumed office in
KT: But you did it just after you lost seats rather than earlier.
JJ: No let me explain. I will explain. You must remember that I was
bequeathed a shattered economy and total fiscal chaos by the previous DMK
government. To put it mildly the state treasury was simply not making
payments. I inherited a whole pile of unpaid bills. The fiscal balance had
to be restored and these needed structural changes. It was?
KT: (Intervenes) But forgive me Chief Minister the reforms include economic
and fiscal reforms which you reversed.
KT: So far from making structural changes you are reversing your own
JJ: No I was just explaining that I inherited a whole pile of unpaid bills
and fiscal chaos. I had to make the people swallow bitter medicine. By 31st
March 2003 all the earlier payments were cleared and by the end of the
fiscal year 2003-2004 Tamil Nadu's fiscal heath was fully restored. As the
fiscal situation turned from terminal decline to the pink of robust health
I started making these calibrations even from January 2003, well before the
KT: Do you know what people say, the press says that Jayalalitha reversed
her economic and fiscal reforms such as stopping power to farmers, such as
stopping cheap access to easy grain for people earning over 5000 because
she wanted easy popularity. She had lost,she was worried she would lose
JJ: That is not correct. You must remember that Tamil Nadu has been greatly
affected by three years of continuous drought and people, particularly the
poor farmers and agricultural laborers had to be insulated against the
income shock caused by drought. In such a situation one cannot be dogmatic
or opinionated. If change is warranted in a new situation, so be it. It has
to be done.
KT: In which case why did you?
Intervenes) I'm sure I have done well in protecting the farmers and the
landless agricultural laborers and you must remember that Tamil Nadu has
been free from starvation deaths and malnutrition deaths which have
afflicted many other states.
KT: Chief Minister, why did you then reverse the anti-conversion bill? That
was extremely popular when you first passed it.
JJ: That has nothing to do with economic reform.
KT: Yes but it was one of the reversions.
JJ: It was misunderstood and particularly it was blown up by the media.
KT: So in other words you buckled under media pressure?
JJ: No, not at all. It was misunderstood by many people. It was not an
anti-conversion law, it was an anti forcible conversion law.
KT: But it was misunderstood for almost two years.You could have repealed
it earlier, you didn't. You only repealed it after you failed to win seats.
JJ: It has nothing to do with that. If you insist on giving this
interpretation I can't help it.
KT: What about the?
JJ: (Intervenes) As to why the media is biased, that is because I am a
self-made woman. Politics has for long been a male bastion. Mrs.Indira
Gandhi changed all that, but still you must remember that Mrs.Indira Gandhi
had all the inbuilt advantages. She had the advantage of being born in
KT: (Intervenes) You're saying that media picks on you?
JJ: I do think so.
KT: Because you are a woman?
JJ: You are not allowing me to finish anything I want to say.
KT: No, is it because you are a woman?
JJ: I don't think it's because I am a woman. It's because I don't have a
background like other women political leaders of Asia. If you'll allow me
to complete a sentence, Mrs. Indira Gandhi was born into the Nehru family.
She was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru. Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaiake was
the wife of Bandaranaiake, Benazir Bhutto was the daughter of Bhutto,
Khaleeda Zia was the widow of Zia-ur- Rehman.
KT: What's the point you are making?
JJ: Sheikh Haseena was the daughter of Mujibur Rehman. I have no such
background. I'm a self made woman.
KT: And so you are picked upon.
JJ: Nothing was handed to me on a golden platter.
KT: But are you saying that because you are self-made you are picked upon?
JJ: I do not know the reasons. It's the media who have to explain why they
have been so biased.
KT: Okay. You say that you are not irresponsible, you say that in fact
JJ: (Intervenes) If you knew my routine you would be surprised. I get up at
4 o'clock in the morning and I am awake till one the next morning and all
my time, all my attention is religiously devoted to work, work and nothing
else but work. I have no time, no time to think of vendetta or think of
KT: (Intervenes) You are saying you have no time? It is interesting that
you should pick the word vendetta. You say you have no time for vendetta.
The press point out that when you arrested your predecessor you did it at
two in the morning, on a Saturday although the case against him had
already been filed a day before.
JJ: If you allow me a few minutes?
KT: But can I finish the question and then?
JJ: I know what you are getting at. So, the DMK's government foisted cases
against me and threw me in jail. I languished in jail for twenty-eight days
in a case in which I was ultimately acquitted...
KT: (Intervenes) So was it revenge?
JJ: When Mr. Karunanidhi did this the media gave him kudos for throwing me
into jail portraying it as a triumph of good over evil.If only they knew
the truth, later the people saw through Mr.Karunanidhi's mean game and they
elected me to power in 2001 with a thumping majority.
KT: (Intervenes) But when you arrested him?
JJ: When I became Chief Minister Mr. Karunanidhi was arrested in a
corruption case. At that time his family channel Sun TV played a big hoax
with a very cleverly edited footage?
KT: (Intervenes) Can I interrupt because I think the important thing Chief
JJ: (Intervenes) And at that time the entire media was?
KT: (Intervenes) You are reading a statement?
JJ: (Intervenes) I'm not reading. I'm looking at you and talking. You can
check it in the camera.
KT: But I want to say?
JJ: I'm looking at you and speaking. I'm not reading.
KT: I'm want to put out a concern to you. People say?
JJ: (Intervenes) You have notes before you. Shall I say you are reading.
KT: I have questions in front of me.
JJ: Alright I have notes in front of me. Nothing forbids me from having
KT: Chief Minister?
JJ: I'm not reading. I'm looking at you straight in the eye. I look
everyone straight in the eye.
KT: You arrested a man who was 77.
JJ: Age has nothing to do with corruption.
KT: A former Chief Minister of 14 years standing?
JJ: I too was a former Chief Minister when I was arrested.
KT: So was it revenge? It was vengeance?
JJ: It was not vengeance. He was involved in a corruption case.
KT: You don't regret the way it was handled?
JJ: I do not regret it at all because what was shown to the people was
cleverly edited footage, it was a hoax played on the people. People in the
media like you would not have seen through it, you may have taken it on
phase value, but the people saw through it.
KT: Okay what about what the press calls your inconsistency and
unreliability. They say that her relationship with Sonia Gandhi as an ally
is an on-off affair.
JJ: I do not want to discuss Mrs. Sonia Gandhi in this interview.
JJ: I have the choice to pick and choose the questions I want to answer.
KT: You have a choice to pick and choose the questions you wish to answer
but don't you think?
JJ: It's my democratic right. I don't have to answer every question you put
JJ: I do not wish to discuss Mrs. Sonia Gandhi.
KT: Except for the fact that people will wonder why you don't want to talk
about someone who was your ally in '99, who you publicly spoke against as a
possible Prime Minister of the country?
JJ: If you have other questions you may ask them. I don't wish to answer
KT: Okay can I put one quote to you? The press say that she turned against
Sonia Gandhi in 2003 to ingratiate herself to the BJP; today she is saying
nice things about Sonia Gandhi because she wishes to ingratiate herself
JJ: I have not said any such nice things. All that I said was I did not
make any personal attacks and I have no reason to make any personal
attacks. What happened during the parliamentary polls was an electoral
confrontation and not a personal confrontation.
JJ: (Intervenes) Now I'm looking you straight in the eye and you are
reading from your notes.
KT: I'm reading a quotation of yours so I don't get it inaccurate. In '98
you said it would be a national shame if that foreigner comes to power. In
2003 you said it will be a crime shame and moral bankruptcy for the
Congress to project Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister.
JJ: My feelings on the issue of a person of foreign origin ruling the
country are well known.
KT: And unchanged?
JJ: My statements are on record. There is no change in my stand.
KT: So you remain by your position?
JJ: Yes I'm quite consistent.
KT: That Sonia Gandhi should not become Prime Minister of India.
JJ: Not just Sonia Gandhi. Not just Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, any person of
KT: Let's switch to another concern the media has. They say that
Jayalalitha is undemocratic. In fact they go further. They say you are
dictatorial. How do you respond to that?
JJ: I think people are the best judges.
JJ: The media has never had good things to say about me. And you didn't
allow me to finish what I wanted to say earlier.
KT: Why do your M.L.As ?
JJ: You'd be surprised to know my routine I said. I spend all my time
devoted to work. I don't do anything else. I work all the time for the
development of Tamil Nadu, for the good of the people of Tamil Nadu.
KT:I accept that completely. But why do your M.L.As and your Ministers in
public prostrate themselves in front of you?
JJ: They prostrate before other political leaders. They prostrate before
Mr. Karunanidhi too. His MLAs and MPs do that all the time.
KT: But they are people?
JJ: Except that you choose not to notice it. Whenever there is any small
incident involving me it is blown up beyond proportion. It is an Indian
tradition to seek blessings from elders.
KT: In this fashion?
JJ: Yes it is an Indian tradition. I think you are an Indian. I think you
know enough about Indian tradition and culture.
KT: But is it fitting for ministers of the state?
JJ: I have asked them not to do it.
KT: They don't listen to you?
JJ: They do listen. They don't do it nowadays in public.
KT: It's been stopped?
JJ: It's been stopped.
KT: When you say they don't do it in public?
JJ: (Intervenes) I've given many statements to this effect. I have given
public statements asking my party men and MLAs and Ministers not to
prostrate in public. They don't do it. They've not been doing it for the
last three or four years.
KT: The media also points towards the fact that in slightly over three
years you have reshuffled your cabinet, as the Deccan Chronicle points out,
over fifteen times.
JJ: That I'm allowed to do, for administrative convenience.
KT: You mean to say that you need to do it so often for administrative
JJ: I know what I need to do for the good of the state.
KT: The press says?
JJ: If certain persons are appointed to certain posts and if their
performance is not satisfactory, for the good of the state, for
administrative improvement I have to make a change. I cannot refrain from
making a change simply because their will be carping criticism from
persons in the media like you.
KT: Except for the fact that the media all the way across the country says
that Jayalalitha does it to keep them insecure,to keep them dependent on
JJ: If they keep on making such unjustified remarks I have nothing to say.
KT: Let's talk a little about you. Your party the AIADMK is formally a part
of the Dravida movement. The Dravida movement?
JJ: Not formally part of the Dravida movement, it is still part of the
KT: Except that the Dravidian movement is a rationalist,
atheist,iconoclastic movement. Where do you personally fit into that?
JJ: It's not an atheist movement, it's not an atheist movement. You are
totally wrong. You haven't read Dravidian history.
KT: Periyar was an atheist...
JJ: Anna said, 'ondre kulam oruvane devam', that means there is only one
God. So Anna recognized the existence of God, so it doesn't mean atheism.
KT: Are you embarrassed by your belief in numerology and astrology?
JJ: Who said that I believe in astrology and numerology? You say it,people
in the media say it. What is the proof you have of that?
KT: Don't you chose?
JJ: (Intervenes) Why should I be embarrassed?
KT: Don't you choose auspicious hours when you do things?
JJ: Many people in India do that. Have you asked this question of
Mr.Vajpayee, Mr. Advani, many other leaders?
KT: I asked identical questions of Vasundhara Raje Scindia. The press says
that Jayalalitha spends a lot of time propitiating gods, she spends a lot
of time choosing auspicious hours. Are you superstitious?
JJ: I am not superstitious and I must say I am rather disappointed with the
tone and tenor of this interview. You seem to preface almost every
sentence, every question with the word the press says or the media says so.
The press and the media have always been making uncharitable, unfair,
unjustified remarks, comments without any basis. What do you expect me to
say to all this?
KT: Can I ask you why did you believe in?
JJ: If people believed all that the media have said about me, have written
about me, I couldn't have won a single election, I wouldn't be sitting
where I am now.
KT: Except for the fact in 2001 suddenly you?
JJ: I'm sorry I agreed to do this interview. That's all I can say.
KT: In 2001, Chief Minister, you changed the spelling of you name. Can I
ask you why? You added an extra 'a'.
JJ: It's my prerogative to do so. I don't have to explain. I don't have to
explain anything to you for that matter.
KT: No but I asked for a simple reason. As Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu,
you set an example?
JJ: I changed the spelling of my name before I became the Chief Minister
again. That is my prerogative. Did you ask Vaiko why he changed his name to
Vaiko from Y. Gopalaswami? Go and ask him that.
KT: So when the press depict you, as I began this interview by saying?
JJ: (Intervenes) You are doing a good job of it again now.
KT: No I'm putting a question to you. When the press depict you as
irresponsible for reversing your policies?
JJ: (Intervenes) I'm not irresponsible. I spend all my time working. I deny
KT: When they say you are vengeful you deny that?
JJ: I deny that.
KT: When they say you are inconsistent, you deny that?
JJ: I do deny it.
KT: And when they say that her attitude to astrology, numerology suggests
she is irrational, you deny that as well?
JJ: I deny that also. I'm a perfectly rational, sensible, sober, very
responsible leader. I can say with confidence that no other Chief Minister
in Tamil Nadu's history has worked so hard
for the development and progress of the state as I have been doing and as I
KT: Then let me put this to you. You face state elections in slightly under
two years time in May 2006 at the latest.
JJ: Yes I am perfectly aware of that.
KT: Are you worried that after the problem you faced in May at the general
elections when your party did not win a single seat that you will lose the
JJ: (Intervenes) I am not worried at all.
KT: But won't this press image that is widespread across the country,not
just Tamil Nadu, work against you?
JJ: It's irrelevant.
KT: You are confident that you can reach out to the people above the press
and convince them of the real Jayalalitha?
JJ: As I told you earlier if the people took seriously what the media
persons have been writing about me and saying about me, I could not have
won a single election.
KT: Except that you lost in '96 and you didn't win any seats at the
national elections in 2004.
JJ: What about the '98 that came immediately after '96? What about the
general elections then?
KT: But this is what I am saying. Your career in the last ten years, and
particularly in the last three, has seen amazing roller coasters.
JJ: This is true of every political leader. It's true of life itself. Life
is full of ups and downs. The political career of any leader is full of
victories and defeats. No one is consistently successful, no one is a
KT: You've also faced cases in court. Does it worry you that now you have
to go to court not just in Tamil Nadu but?
JJ: I have been facing a number of cases since 1996. All these cases were
foisted on me. I have never run away from facing these cases.I've been
acquitted in 12 cases so far. What does that show? That the cases were
KT: In one of the cases, the Tansi case, where you were acquitted and
exonerated by the Supreme Court, the same court, in its verdict said it
asked you to ponder on whether you have done the right thing in breeching
the spirit of the code of conduct?
JJ: (Intervenes) I never comment on any judgment of the Supreme Court. I
have never done so so far, I will not do it now.
KT: Except for the fact that many people felt, not just the press this
time, but the court was actually saying that legally you were innocent but
morally you had a case to answer at least to yourself personally.
JJ: I told you I do not comment on any judgment of the Supreme
Court,whether the judgment involves me personally or any other matter of
public importance. I never have commented on any judgment of the Supreme
Court, I will not do so.
KT: You are a very tough person, Chief Minister.
JJ: People like you have made me so.
KT: You said that you were misunderstood.
KT: Do you think that you are badly treated by the press?
JJ: I do not wish to say anything more on this. Anyway your interview
is not doing anything to help matters.
KT: My aim, Chief Minister, was to get to the core of the misunderstanding.
You said that the press?
JJ: Your aim seems to have been to put as many unpleasant questions as
possible and try to provoke me.
KT: Not to provoke you but to put to you the questions that have been
discussed for the last three years and which in many ways may be
responsible for the electoral adversity?
JJ: Haven't you asked all of your questions? Have you got anything more to
KT: I have come very close to the end of this interview, I have only one
last question. Are you confident that you can see your electoral low point
over with, and that you will win in 2006?
JJ: Wait and see. I told you already I don't believe in astrology. I can't
predict what will happen in the next elections but you will be around I
suppose. Wait and see what happens.
KT: Is that a yes, you will win?
JJ: I said wait and see.
KT: Chief Minister, a pleasure talking to you on HARDtalk India.
JJ: I must say it wasn't a pleasure talking to you. Namaste
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